What Does a Sales Representative Do? [2023 Guide]
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Technology as an industry might seem synonymous with the profession of engineering, but it is so much more than that. Sales has emerged as a key competency in the industry and recruiters have struggled to fill open sales roles at certain times. And with that, entrepreneurs and tech teams have come around to the idea that you could build great software all you want, but to be successful, you need someone with expertise to sell it.
In the meantime, things have been evolving quickly within the world of sales. New kinds of roles have popped up and software tools have become a necessity. We’re going to break down the role of the sales representative in this post and show you how you can go about building a career in this space.
What Is a Sales Representative?
A sales representative is a company’s most direct connection to its clientele. Representatives go about researching markets, generating leads, and building relationships with customers with the goal of selling products and services.
The process by which a sales representative makes those things happen can differ greatly based on what they’re selling. Factors like the nature of the business (B2B vs B2C), industry, target demographic, and organizational structure play into the methods and strategies that a sales representative employs.
Ultimately, the goal of a sales representative is to create awareness about a company’s offering and then leverage that to sell its products and/or services.
Related Read: What is Tech Sales?
What Does a Sales Representative Do?
Now that we have the lay of the land, let’s dive deeper into the responsibilities of sales representatives.
Sales Rep Responsibilities
Here are some of the most common responsibilities of sales representatives in modern organizations:
- Studying a company’s target market and identifying avenues to generate new leads.
- Creating a pipeline of leads and reaching out to new potential clients using various channels, including email, social media, and phone calls.
- Educating clients on the benefits and features of the product being sold.
- Negotiating prices and closing deals with new clients.
- Tracking where different leads and customers are in the sales cycle and maintaining relationships with all of them.
- Participating in company meetings with sales leads to keep abreast of changes in the sales team infrastructure and updated quotas.
Types of Sales Representatives
Sales representatives can be classified based on the specific approaches and responsibilities that come with the role.
An outside sales rep is the conventional sales professional, who goes out of the office to meet clients face to face and build relationships with them. This job involves working largely on your own and outside the confines of your workplace.
Inside sales reps maintain the already existing relationships that a company has built with its clients. This is a slightly more modern sales and involves retaining clients and increasing their lifetime value to a company.
A sales engineer works at the intersection of technology and sales. The main responsibility of a sales engineer is to understand clients’ requirements and recommend technology products to them based on that understanding. The job is largely the same as an outside sales professional except that it requires an understanding of technology and how it can be customized for different clients.
Business development is broader than a conventional sales role and involves identifying new growth opportunities and partnerships for a company. This may sometimes involve meeting and selling to new clients. It could also require partnering with other businesses to attract new clients and make inroads in new markets together.
Account managers are assigned groups of clients and tasked with strengthening relationships with them. The goal of an account manager is to ensure that client contracts are renewed, individual client accounts are growing, and ultimately, that the company is able to generate higher revenues from each existing client.
How Do You Become a Sales Representative?
Sales is a profession where the barriers of entry are low and you can make big leaps by learning on the job. Let’s take a look at what you need to break into the industry.
It is rare for the average sales representative role to have formal educational requirements. You’re most likely going to be required to have a high school diploma and not much more than that. That said, you might need to have more advanced degrees if you’re doing a tech sales job or working in a specialized industry like pharmaceuticals.
There is no specific background that sales representatives are expected to come from. If you’re a complete newcomer, then being able to demonstrate an understanding of the industry that your company operates in is sufficient. If you’re making a career change into sales, then coming from a customer service or marketing background can help.
Below are some of the main skills that sales representatives are expected to have:
- Relationship building
- Product and market research
- Territory management
Finding an Industry
The industry that you choose to work in as a sales representative will depend on your areas of interest and expertise. If you have no experience and are trying to get a sales job without specialized knowledge of an industry, then you should choose an area where there is a short learning curve, like certain consumer packaged goods or insurance. Industries like technology or financial services usually require existing experience or a degree in that field.
Most of the training that you will undergo as a sales representative will be on the job. The company that you’re hired with will take you through the basic process of finding prospects, creating proposals, using a CRM and so on. But beyond that, you will likely be expected to dive into your work and improve using the feedback you get from your team and higher-ups.
Networking is an essential component of the sales process. You must, of course, master the art of reaching out to new potential clients and building relationships with them. But it also helps to create connections in your industry in general, including with other sales representatives.
What’s It Like Working as a Sales Representative?
We’ve learned a lot about what the sales representative’s life is like in theory. But what is it actually like working as one in real life? Let’s find out.
This video by Travis S is a great insight into what it takes to become a successful sales representative. It does away with the idea that working as a rep is a cushy desk job where you spend most of your day chatting on a phone. Travis S shows that it takes discipline to do well as a sales representative.
Additionally, young sales reps can also do well to pick up on the fact that a broad skill set is important in the world of sales. You need to be able to quickly learn about things like CRMs, social selling, negotiation, and networking to grow as a salesman.
This post on the HubSpot blog is a compilation of insights sourced from sales representatives across America. It talks about how working as a sales rep involves dealing with rejection, handling objections, and a lot of awkward moments. The post explains that the key to weathering those things is to figure out which the hardest parts of the job are for you and to work on them in an intentional manner.
This post on Reddit asking sales representatives for advice elicited some very insightful responses. One commenter addresses sales quotas and some of the pressure that can come with having to meet them. But they go on to explain that a job in sales can be rewarding if you figure out how you meet your quotas.
Another commenter goes into the importance of networking for sales representatives, saying that it has “set up so much of my career.” They go on to explain that they’ve even been offered jobs by the companies they sold to thanks to keeping in touch with them.
Related Read: Technical Sales Representative Job Description
FAQs About Sales Representatives
Is Being a Salesman a Good Career?
Yes, being a salesman can be a rewarding and lucrative career option. You can enter the profession with a high school diploma in many cases and work your way up by meeting your quotas and constantly learning on the job.
Does Being a Sales Representative Pay Well?
The payment of most sales representatives is structured as a combination of a base salary and commissions. So your final salary will depend on your experience as a sales rep, which will dictate the base pay, and then your ability to meet your quotas. If you can gain experience and get good at your job, sales can be very lucrative.
Where Do Sales Reps Work?
Sales is a profession that spans industries. Sales representatives can be hired in domains like insurance, technology, financial services, hardware, and retail among others.
Since you’re here…
Curious about a career in tech sales? Learn more with our tech sales career guide, or dive right in with our Tech Sales Bootcamp. We’ll help you seamlessly switch careers in a matter of months, or your tuition money back. See our student success stories for inspiration – people are changing careers with us every day!